State Senator Susan Rubio has a powerful position in Sacramento. As chairman of the Insurance Committee, the Baldwin Park Democrat can help pass or kill any legislation affecting that industry.

Due to a law intended to prevent corruption, Rubio cannot accept campaign donations from insurance lobbyists (or any other lobbyist) while raising money for his re-election to the Legislature in 2026. State law prohibits California lobbyists from making donations to the campaigns of state legislators.

But there are no such restrictions on lobbyists donating to campaigns for federal office, even when the candidate is a state legislator. So as Rubio runs for Congress this year, he will be able to accept donations to his federal campaign from lobbyists who may try to influence his vote in Sacramento.

And she is.

Rubio has received nearly $43,300 in contributions from registered state lobbyists in his campaign to replace outgoing Rep. Grace F. Napolitano in California’s 31st Congressional District. It’s a fraction of his overall fundraising as of Feb. 14, but it’s the most lobbyist money of any California lawmaker running for federal office. Many of those who donated to Rubio’s congressional campaign represent companies that lobby on bills before the committees she serves on as a state lawmaker, including the Insurance Committee and those that oversee insurance-related policies. healthcare, alcohol and energy regulations, and utilities.

Eight state legislators are running for Congress this year. Six have received donations from lobbyists, in widely varying amounts, totaling $96,090.

Donations are legal and make up a small portion of candidates’ total fundraising. Still, some watchdogs say they should be banned because of the risk that lobbyist money could influence the decisions of lawmakers in the work they do at the state level.

“It doesn’t mean they’ll vote for him, but there’s a chance that could happen,” said Sean McMorris, program director for the government watchdog group Common Cause.

His organization was part of the coalition that 50 years ago introduced the California Political Reform Act, the law banning lobbyist donations to state legislators.

Bob Stern, co-author of the law, said the state ban was implemented because “lawmakers were getting enormous amounts of lobbying, and we thought there should be a disconnect between lobbying and campaign contributions.”

In practice, Stern said, the ban’s impacts were limited, as companies that hire lobbyists could still donate directly to candidates, as could affiliated political action committees.

But the separation had “symbolism,” he said.

Rubio’s campaign manager, Giovanni Ruiz, said that all contributions he had received from individuals were “based solely on relationships of mutual respect” and he had opposed issues that donors had lobbied for in the past.

Ruiz also noted that Rubio was being vastly outspent by his opponent Gil Cisneros, who has invested $4 million of his own money into his campaign.

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), a congressional candidate from Silicon Valley, received $21,650 from lobbyists, representing 2% of his fundraising. He joined the race at the last minute to replace outgoing Rep. Anna G. Eshoo in early December, just months before the March primary.

State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), who is running to replace Rep. Katie Porter in an Orange County seat, received about $16,500 in donations from lobbyists, representing 1% of total fundraising since he launched his campaign. early 2023.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who is vying to replace Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles), received $4,000, and her opponent, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), received $6,500 from lobbyists . Those totals represent less than 1% of each of their fundraising.

Portantino and Friedman both have been running for the Los Angeles congressional seat for more than a year.

Central Valley congressional candidate, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), received about $4,000 from lobbyists, a sum that represented 6.1% of her fundraising since launched his campaign in August 2023.

Hurtado told The Times that lawmakers should be able to receive those donations, but acknowledged that “money has the ability to corrupt people, it’s that simple.”

Since August, Hurtado has raised less than $100,000; She said she is in debt for having put her own money into the race. The only money she doesn’t accept is from the cannabis industry, she told The Times.

Friedman went further, saying he believes the potential problems would support a law that prevents federal campaigns from accepting money from state lobbyists.

Friedman noted that her campaign was rejecting all corporate PAC money and described it as a much more prominent issue in races like hers. She called the lobbyist contributions she and her colleagues had received small compared to the “avalanche of money out there” from lobbyists’ clients.

Portantino, Low and Min did not respond to requests for comment.

Two state lawmakers running for Congress have not received any donations from lobbyists: Sen. Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera), who is also running for Napolitano’s San Gabriel Valley seat and launched his campaign. last summerand Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), who is running for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s open Bakersfield seat. Fong launched his campaign in December.

Because of the limited disclosures required by the state, lobbyists are not required to publicly report which lawmakers they have attempted to influence various bills, making it difficult to draw direct lines between their lobbying efforts and their donations. But campaign finance and lobbying records show that several of the candidates have received donations from lobbyists who work with companies seeking to influence policy in areas where they have power, based on committee positions.

Photo of Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) debating legislation at the State Capitol

Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) is one of several state legislators running for Congress this year.

(Robert Gourley/Los Angeles Times)

Sacramento lobbyist Mandy Lee gave Rubio $3,300, the maximum donation allowed. His firm represents the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, a major trade group of home, auto and business insurers. The association lobbied for bills considered in the Senate Insurance Committee, chaired by Rubio. Lee also donated $500 to Min.

Rubio’s spokesman noted that the senator’s relationship with Lee long predated his election to the Legislature.

Rubio also received $2,000 from lobbyist Paul Gladfelty, whose firm represents the Travelers insurance company.

“It is not uncommon for state lobbyists to make personal contributions to congressional candidates we know and believe in, which state law allows. Before the senator ran for legislative office, I had the opportunity to establish a personal friendship,” Gladfelty said via text message, adding that his friendship with Rubio “exists regardless of his committee assignments.” .

Lobbyists Soyla Fernández and Kirk Kimmelshue, owners of Fernández Jensen Kimmelshue Government Affairs, donated to Min and Rubio’s campaigns. His firm’s client list includes the Regional Water Authority and the Northern California Water Association, which lobbied on bills that were heard in the Senate Water and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Min.

His firm also represents Southern California Edison, which routinely lobbies for bills in the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee that Min and Rubio serve on; the Anheuser-Busch brewing company lobbying the committee that regulates alcohol, of which Rubio is a member; and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which is lobbying the health committee of which Rubio sits.

Lobbyist RJ Cervantes, whose clients include cryptocurrency trade associations and electronic payments companies, donated $3,300 to Low, who serves as co-chair of the Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus, a group of lawmakers who want to foster a tech-friendly climate. in California. .

Cervantes, Kimmelshue, Fernández and Lee did not respond to requests for comment.

Jessica Levinson, a professor of election law at Loyola Law School and former chairwoman of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, saw the situation as less clear-cut than Common Cause’s McMorris.

He did not believe it was unethical for state legislators to accept donations from lobbyists for their congressional campaigns, as there was “a very real opening in the law” that allows such donations for federal campaigns.

“It’s up to the voters to determine if this is something that bothers them,” Levinson said. “My guess is that for most voters, it’s pretty low on the list.”

By Sam